I ran out and bought this as soon as I finished Meade's BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN, which covers broader ground and many writers. I loved that introdI ran out and bought this as soon as I finished Meade's BOBBED HAIR AND BATHTUB GIN, which covers broader ground and many writers. I loved that introduction, and now I'm completely in love with this more detailed bio. It's actually quite wry, which I think is the only appropriate tone to take when Parker is your subject. (And yet it doesn't try too hard, which would be a major mistake.) Best line so far, about Parker's early work: "Much of what she wrote was mediocre. Nearly everything she wrote found a buyer, in itself a comment on the quality of the work." I get the sense that Parker would have liked Meade very much. I can't imagine giving this anything less than five stars, but I'll make it official when I've finished reading.
And the update: Okay, it gets 4 and a half stars, but I'll round it up to five. It lost the (invisible) half star for trying too hard to link fictional writings with biography. I understand that Meade is working with very little material here, Parker's estate (read: Lillian Hellman) having destroyed a lot of letters, and certain friends refusing to release interview tapes. Meade rather desperately tries to read things into Parker's fiction. A typical line: "Even after twenty-five years, Dorothy's hatred of Horte Campbell [her former MIL] remained intense, because she included dialogue that characterized Gordon Corey [a fictional character]'s mother as evil and stupid." Sheesh. As a writer, this horrifies me. Writers *make things up*, you know. It's kind of our job.
But these moments are few, and the biography, when it stays away from extrapolative literary analysis, is lovely and fun....more
I grew up with two linguistics professors for parents, and I tend to be unimpressed by vernacular linguistics books if only because I grew up hearingI grew up with two linguistics professors for parents, and I tend to be unimpressed by vernacular linguistics books if only because I grew up hearing so much of this stuff at the dinner table. But Sacks branches out in so many different directions (often kind of free-associating, though productively) and includes such recent discoveries that almost all of this was fresh for me. It was little repetitive, as if he didn't trust that people would read the book sequentially. He's probably right that a lot of readers will just turn to their own initial, but that's their loss. ...more
I really did like this weird little collection, but I feel I ought to give the caveat that all of these stories, with the exception only of the last oI really did like this weird little collection, but I feel I ought to give the caveat that all of these stories, with the exception only of the last one, are deeply disturbing. ...more
I probably shouldn't give stars when I'm only halfway through a book, but I can't imagine I'll change my mind by the end of this one. I picked up theI probably shouldn't give stars when I'm only halfway through a book, but I can't imagine I'll change my mind by the end of this one. I picked up the audio book for the car (really just as background research for my second novel), and I'm so hooked I'm making excuses to run errands just to listen to it. I do love the voice of the reader -- she sounds like an older, sophisticated woman, leaning close to fill you in on gossip she just learned -- and I'm reminded again of how much a reader can make or break an audio book (something sadly outside of most writers' control).
I don't imagine anyone will mistake this book for either serious literary criticism or intense, analytical biography. It excels at being exactly what it intends: a deliciously gossipy and truly funny overview of the Algonquin Round Table and some of the more sociable writers of the 1920s.
I'll be ordering this author's other books, and I already queued up "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" on Netflix.
And if anyone in the Chicago area desperately needs help with an errand that requires an hour or more of driving, I volunteer.
Updated: Finished the book. Yep, loved every minute of it, and she did a great job of wrapping up the story with the decade, even though the lives in question were, in some cases, just getting started. (It had a bit of an Animal House ending in that regard, but the sudden infusion of lively background music on the CD made it all quite festive.) Recommend most highly....more
I can't read too much Lydia Davis at once, or I end up trying to write like her (not a good idea for me). But this is brilliant, and I'm always amazedI can't read too much Lydia Davis at once, or I end up trying to write like her (not a good idea for me). But this is brilliant, and I'm always amazed at the number of people who talk about "flash fiction" without ever having read the woman who essentially invented the form and is its undisputed master. ...more